World News: China’s Geopolitical Ambitions and American Influences

Chase O'Brien-Steele, Contributing Writer

Over recent weeks, tensions between several Asian nations have intensified, spilling into global power relationships. Such a political situation was forthcoming. The combination of COVID-19, recent allegations of human rights violations and elections in the United States, China’s geopolitical strategy is balancing delicately. There are several considerations to factor into these complex developments. 

The first is obvious, which is the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, China has been heavily criticized over the past year or so for its original response to the coronavirus outbreak. They’ve had to parry a lot of international chastisement, but to their credit, their economic growth was not curbed. While China couldn’t have predicted the genesis of a global pandemic would be within their borders, they still remain an extremely powerful, influential state in the international system. 

On top of criticism for coronavirus, China has also come under scrutiny for potential human rights violations concerning its minority Uighur Muslim population. Many Uighurs, formerly detained in camps, have come out and alleged grave violations towards the Chinese government and its officials. These findings greatly diminish China’s international stature, especially in relation to the United States, as a state that engages in “re-education” of their citizens cannot realistically think it can overtake the preeminence that the US holds in the international community. 

Speaking about the international position of China is incomplete without mentioning their relationship with the United States. China’s geopolitical ambitions depended greatly on the outcome of the US election. China, having been treated punitively under Trump, favored a win for Joe Biden, which they got. However, Biden has so far continued his predecessor’s stance towards China, and doesn’t intend to lift any of the tariffs previously imposed. 

In a meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, Chinese officials alleged hypocrisy for human rights criticism when the US itself was in turmoil over the Black Lives Matter protests and white supremacy enabled under the Presidency of Donald Trump. Additionally, their allegation that the US meddled too deeply in internal affairs of other sovereign states was not unfounded. While the Chinese do have some legitimate criticisms of the United States, much of it was directed towards the previous administration, one that is vastly different from the one that replaced it. Regardless, the Chinese contempt for the United States has been growing, and it is stronger than ever now.

These tensions reveal the underlying power dynamic between the two superpowers. Clearly both nations are at a point of confrontation, in a situation that is advancing towards bipolarity. This relationship has manifested militarily as well. Chinese vessels have been patrolling disputed waters recently in the South China Sea (within 200 miles of Manila), and the Philippines, a close US ally, is preparing to send aircraft in immediately. Although China clearly doesn’t want a war, their heightened military aggression is a threat to the stability of Asia and the world. Other Asian countries, namely South Korea, Japan and India, have joined together with the US and Australia to form an informal alliance to combat growing Chinese ambitions in Asia. The countries even began conducting joint military exercises a few weeks ago, such is the threat they observe in China. 

China, with the culmination of many global events, find themselves in a unique political situation. With so much global focus upon them in the past year, they have been challenged to respond while at the same time reconciling that scrutiny with their own ambitious geopolitical goals. As a result, they have made several moves militarily and politically that represent an urgent advancement of their domestic and foreign agendas. This includes their restrictions on Hong Kong, their current military posture, and their confrontation of US opposition. However, China isn’t the only country that has needed to quickly adjust their foreign and domestic strategy. The current global circumstances necessitate that every nation do the same, and this chaos has created the current precarious political environment.